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Fri, March 22

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder. One of the first steps to living with the disease is to understand it.

When an individual has Parkinson’s disease, vital nerve cells in the brain — called neurons — malfunction and die. Some of these dying neurons produce dopamine, a chemical that sends messages to the part of the brain that controls the body’s movement and coordination. The amount of dopamine decreases as Parkinson’s disease progresses, which causes difficulty for an individual to control his or her body’s movements.

More than 1 million people live with Parkinson’s disease in the United States, with symptoms varying from person to person. Some symptoms of the disease are easy to see, while others are hard to detect. Symptoms often begin on one side of the body, but eventually will affect both sides as the disease progresses. Signs of Parkinson’s disease can include:

Tremors or shaking of a body part

Slowness of movements

Difficulty with walking or balance

Muscle stiffness or rigidity

Voice softening or slurring of words

Loss of automatic movements

such as eye blinking or smiling

Handwriting becomes smaller

Stooping or hunching over

Difficulty swallowing

While there is no known cause or cure for Parkinson’s disease, individuals can take an active role in their health to help control symptoms and manage the disease. Research has shown that a combined focus on medication management and intensive rehabilitation in an inpatient rehabilitation setting can dramatically improve function and quality of life in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

An individual treated through an inpatient rehabilitation facility is offered the latest in rehabilitative technology and a multi-disciplinary approach that provides the expertise of numerous healthcare professionals including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists,

dietitians, case managers, nurses, and more. Members of the healthcare

team work with the individual, family members, and his or her physician to develop a customized plan of care to meet needs and goals.

The treatments provided by the multidisciplinary team can address a number of issues, including:

Medication management

Muscle tone/tremor management


Walking difficulty

Speed of movements

Fatigue and endurance

Use of adaptive equipment


Deep brain stimulator monitoring


Impaired memory, problem-solving, and behavior


Self-care skills, such as feeding

and dressing

Bowel and bladder training

Depression management

Education on fall prevention

and home safety

Voice and speech impairments

Range of motion, trunk mobility, rigidity reduction

Members of the health care team remain aware of each other, communicate regularly, and coordinate treatments and medications to allow for the best possible outcome.

Learn more about Parkinson treatments available at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation

Hospital by calling 928-759-8800.

Karen Russell is Community Liaison of Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital.


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